Kamala Sankaram’s The Last Stand will be a sound installation featuring an experimental opera created for and about the trees. Composed of familiar sounds and vibrational tones that allow the trees to experience the project, the soundscape will be a stark look into deforestation and the climate crisis. Ultimately, The Last Stand is a story of complex interspecies relationships that reveal a fundamental truth—that our planetary survival depends on collaboration with our natural neighbors.
The Last Stand is inspired by Dr. Suzanne Simard’s groundbreaking discoveries that trees communicate and maintain interspecies relationships through underground fungal networks. Disrupting our perception of trees, the classification of the natural world, and the social capacity of non-human entities—her work highlights how little humans know about other species on earth.
When left to their own growth patterns, trees in canopy forests can live upwards of 500 years. The opera tells the story of a tree’s lifespan from acorn to its last stand—a burst of life-giving energy that a tree disperses as it dies. In its extensive duration, the installation will reflect on a tree’s life as a timescale that far outreaches our own. The project will transport audiences through the stages of life of a tree and uncover the social chatter surrounding it by using field recordings from Black Rock Forest and other nearby woodlands.
Spurred by the urgency of today’s environmental crisis, Sankaram says, “I hope that by creating something for a non-human audience on a non-human time scale, human audiences will gain empathy for other life forms.”
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